AN OLD FASHIONED CONCEPT: DEPTH
I am inspired to write about this today because I just finished 3 books that knocked me out. One was WINTER by Christopher Nicholson, an imagination of Thomas Hardy at 84 and his wife’s jealousy when Hardy seemingly gets a crush on a young actress. What the book is really about is how a writer uses whatever inspires him or her and really what “takes us over” should not be taken literally. Our obsessions exist to help us write. Usually our inspiration is just that, inspiration — and not to be seen as something we will act out on.
Then I read Christopher Hitchens “Letter to a Contrarian,” and what writer is anything but because, let’s face it, writing is contrary to acting out in the world and is about living actively in the mind. Hitchens gives such non new-age advice as: “Distrust compassion (ie sentimentality); prefer dignity for yourself and others. Don’t be afraid to be thought arrogant or selfish. Picture all experts as if they were mammals.” How liberating. And then I went to Peter Matthiessen’s novel, his last I think, IN PARADISE — an almost prayer-like novel about coming to terms with Auschwitz.
These three books revitalized me like a tonic. Ah…this is what writing is: To incite, to deepen, to show our all too human wrestling with what it is to be human. It makes me feel like dancing. But even better, it makes me reflect that writing is to add to the great ocean of writing what matters to us and therefore what can matter to the reader. We write to pass on a gift.